Well, all the numbers are finally in. The 2008 RNC Convention was the most watched political convention in history, with nearly 80 million Americans total tuning in Wednesday and Thursday night, to watch Sarah Palin and John McCain. The Republican convention was carried by ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CSPAN, and PBS. The Democrat convention was carried by all these networks plus BET, Telemundo, Univision, and TV One. The AP estmiates that both Obama and McCain drew TV audiences of 42.4 million viewers for their acceptance speeches.
Think about this for a minute. Conventions are considered to be nothing more than carefully stage-managed political theater. They are also assumed to be ratings disasters, which is why the Big 3 networks devoted only one scheduled hour per night to the Republican convention. No one watches, because no one cares.
There was also a painful lack of excitement within the ranks of Republicans. Conservative bloggers and pundits seemed to support everyone but John McCain. The party talking heads said, without reservation, that the Republicans had "sold out" and had abandoned their conservatism when they nominated McCain. "None of the Above '08" was a popular joke among Republican loyalists.
But the Palin nomination changed all of that. The initial surprise and confusion of the Democrats quickly turned into one of the most vicious negative dogpiles on a political candidate in recent memory. The hatred of Clinton and Bush 43 took time to build; sure, there was partisan grumbling from the start, but the onslaught against Clinton didn't really begin until his second term, likewise, the onslaught against Bush didn't really start until the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Palin is so electrifying that Oprah Winfree, who is unabashedly in the tank for Obama, will not invite Palin to be a guest on her show until after the election.
Perhaps the Obama campaign and their acolytes in the mainstream media and at Daily Kos failed to remember a simple characteristic of Americans -- we always pull for the underdog. What, in fact, was Obama's narrative based on, except the triumph of the underdog?
This is nothing new. Read this excerpt from a New York Times editorial:
Where is it written that only senators are qualified to become President? Or where is it written that mere representatives aren’t qualified? Where is it written that governors and mayors, like Dianne Feinstein of San Francisco, are too local, too provincial? That didn’t stop Richard Nixon from picking Spiro Agnew, a suburban politician who became Governor of Maryland. Remember the main foreign affairs credential of Georgia’s Governor Carter: He was a member of the Trilateral Commission. Presidential candidates have always chosen their running mates for reasons of practical demography, not idealized democracy. On occasion, Americans find it necessary to rationalize this rough-and-ready process. What a splendid system, we say to ourselves, that takes little-known men, tests them in high office and permits them to grow into statesmen. This rationale may even be right, but then let it also be fair. Why shouldn’t a little-known woman have the same opportunity to grow? We may even be gradually elevating our standards for choosing Vice Presidential candidates. But that should be done fairly, also. Meanwhile, the indispensable credential for a Woman Who is the same as for a Man Who - one who helps the ticket.
Now for the sucker punch -- what you just read was a slightly redacted version of an editorial written in 1984 in support of Geraldine Ferraro, a young congresswoman, the mother of three children, who was chosen as the vice presidential running mate of Walter Mondale. What does this prove, other than the obvious fact that the current Times editors consistently fail to read their own editorial page?
Well, for one thing it proves that most Americans are willing to give an unknown, yet appealing, candidate a chance. Innocent until proven guilty, remember? Most Americans are not obsessed with the little (D) or (R) behind candidate's names, and so they don't exhibit the blind partisanship that leads to the ridiculous hypocrisy and bias that we have witnessed in the mainstream press and liberal blogs during the past week.
We also know that Americans don't like to see seemingly everyday people subjected to cruel and unusual handling by the media. The recent Rasmussen polls have been a fascinating source of information about how Americans are viewing the role of the press in this year's election. According to Rasmussen, 55% of Americans view media bias as a more serious problem than campaign financing, 49% believe that the press will overtly favor Obama in their election coverage, and 51% believe that reporters are deliberately trying to damage Sarah Palin.
McCain and Palin seem to have rediscovered the key to the success of Ronald Reagan: he took his message directly to the people and never tried to make friends with the press or request that they treat him nicely. The media's scourging of Sarah Palin motivated over 40 million Americans to tune in for themselves and see what the big deal was all about. More and more, conservatives are wondering if the 2008 election cycle will finally destroy the hallowed image of the mainstream news media as a reliable source of accurate and unbiased information. I think the answer to that is becoming clearer day by day.